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Opinion

Budget 2019 – Poor wording requires 2 ex-spouses within 5 years for Home Buyers Plan

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This is one of those rare times I hope I am wrong in my interpretation, and look forward to being proven wrong by my professional colleagues.

On March 19, 2019 the federal government tabled its election-year budget. One of the newest and strangest provisions is the ability for people going through a separation or divorce to potentially have access to their RRSP under the Home Buyers Plan.

Now in my article and podcast entitled: “Escape Room – The NEW Small Business Tax Game – Family Edition” with respect to the Tax On Split Income (TOSI) rules, I made a tongue in cheek argument that people will be better off if they split, because then the TOSI rules won’t apply.

In keeping with the divorce theme, beginning in the year of hindsight, 2020, the federal government is giving you an incentive to split up and get your own place.

However, there are a few hoops:

On page 402 of the budget, under new paragraph 146.01(2.1)(a), at the time of your RRSP withdrawal under the Home Buyers Plan, you must make sure that:

  • – the home you are buying is not the current home you are living in and you are disposing of the interest in the current home within two years; or
  • – you are buying out your former spouse in your current home; and

you need to:

  • be living separate and apart from your spouse or common-law partner;
  • have been living separate and apart for a period of at least 90 days (markdown October 3, 2019 on the calendar),
  • began living separate and apart from your spouse or common-law partner, this year, or any time in the previous 4 years (ok, you don’t have to wait for October); and…

…here is where the tabled proposed legislation gets messy.

Proposed subparagraph 146.01(2.1)(a)(ii) refers to where the individual

  • wouldn’t be entitled to the home buyers plan because of living with a previous spouse in the past 4 years that isn’t the current spouse they are separating from

“(ii) in the absence of this subsection, the individual would not have a regular eligible amount because of the application of paragraph (f) of that definition in respect of a spouse or common-law partner other than the spouse referred to in clauses (i)(A) to (C), and…”

The problem with the wording of this provision, is that it is written in the affirmative by the legislators using the word “and”. This means, you must be able to answer “true” to all the tests for the entire paragraph to apply.

The way I read this, the only way to answer “true” to this subparagraph is if you have a second spouse (ie: spouse other than the spouse referred to) that you shared a home with and you split from in the past four years.

If you have a second spouse that you shared a home with in the past four years, then “paragraph (f)” in the definition of “regular eligible amount” would apply and the answer would be “true”.

If the answer is “true” you can then get access to your RRSP Home Buyers Plan.

If you don’t have a second spouse then, even though “paragraph (f)” might be met, the phrase “spouse other than the spouse referred to” would not be met, and therefore the answer would be “false”.

This would, in turn, cause the entire logic test of the provision to be “false” and so you would not be able to take out a “regular eligible amount” from your RRSP for the Home Buyers plan because you do not meet the provisions.

If my interpretation is correct then I would really be curious as to what part of the economy they are trying to stimulate.

In my opinion the legislation could be fixed with a simple edit:

“(ii) in the absence of this subsection, the individual would not have a regular eligible amount because of the application of paragraph (f) of that definition in respect of:

(A) a spouse or common-law partner; or

(B) a spouse or common-law partner other than the spouse referred to in clauses (i)(A) to (C); and…”


Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the President & Founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors; you can find out more about Cory’s biography at http://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html

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Alberta

Retired Oil Field Worker sparks national conversation with his pitch for a new route to move Alberta Oil

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The following Opinion piece comes from local writer / editorialist (and former oil field worker) Garfield Marks. 

We have not been able to run our bitumen through a pipeline to a refinery in New Brunswick. There has been resistance in parts of Ontario and in Quebec. What if we came up with another plan. Would we consider it? There will be road blocks, but not insurmountable, would we consider it?
Yes how about Thunder Bay?
Thunder Bay, Ontario, the largest Canadian port of the St. Lawrence Seaway located on the west end of Lake Superior, 1850 kms. from Hardisty, Alberta. A forgotten jewel.
So what, you may ask. 
They used to ship grain from Thunder Bay in huge tankers to ports all over the world. Why not oil?
The Saint Lawrence Seaway ships fuel, gasoline and diesel tankers, to this day.
We could run oil tankers to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, bypassing the controversial pipeline running through eastern Ontario and Quebec.
The pipeline, if that was the transport model chosen, would only need to run through parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Like, previously stated the pipeline would only be 1850 kms. long. 
The other great thing about Thunder Bay is the abundance of rail lines. Transportation for such things as grain and forestry products from western Canada. If you can’t run pipeline from Hardisty, through to Thunder Bay, use the railroad.
Why Hardisty, you may ask.
Hardisty, according to Wikipedia,  is mainly known as a pivotal petroleum industry hub where petroleum products such as Western Canada Select blended crude oil and Hardisty heavy oil are produced, stored and traded.
The Town of Hardisty owes its very existence to the Canadian Pacific Railway. About 1904 the surveyors began to survey the railroad from the east and decided to locate a divisional point at Hardisty because of the good water supply from the river. 
Hardisty, Alberta has the railroad and has the product, the storage capacity, and the former Alberta government planned on investing $3.7 billion in rail cars for hauling oil while Thunder Bay has the railroad and an under utilised port at the head of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Economics are there along with opportunity, employment would be created and the east coast could end its’ dependency on imported oil. 
Do we have the vision or willingness to consider another option. I am just asking for all avenues to be considered.
In my interviews in Ontario there is a willingness to discuss this idea. 
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is still reviewing the idea of shipping crude oil from western Canada through its system, and it’s a long way from happening, according to Bruce Hodgson, the Seaway’s director of market development.
“Obviously, there needs to be an ongoing commitment on the part of a producer, and so that’s going to be required for any project of this nature,” he said. 

We could consider it, could we not?
CBC NEWS did a story about this idea on March 7 2019;
A retired oil field worker in Alberta has “floated” a novel solution to Alberta’s oil transportation woes: pipe the bitumen to Thunder Bay, Ont., then ship it up the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick.
Marks’ proposal might be more than a pipe dream, according to the director of the Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.
‘I don’t think that it’s a totally nuts idea’
“I don’t think that it’s a totally nuts idea,” Warren Mabee said. “I think that there’s some flaws to it … but this is an idea that could work in certain circumstances and at certain times of year. … It’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The chief executive officer of the Port of Thunder Bay said shipping oil from the port “could easily be done.” 
“We ship refined gasoline and diesel up from Sarnia. We’ve done that for many many years,” Tim Heney told CBC. “So it’s not something that’s that far-fetched.”
There are, however, plenty of potential drawbacks to shipping crude through the Seaway, Mabee explained, not least of which is the fact that it isn’t open year-round.

The need to store oil or redirect it during the winter months could be costly, he said.
Potential roadblocks
Another potential pitfall is capacity, he added; there may not be enough of the right-sized tankers available to carry the oil through the Seaway. 
Finally, he said, the journey by sea from Lake Superior to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick is a long one, so it might make more sense to transport the product to a closer facility such as the one in Sarnia, Ont.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is still reviewing the idea of shipping crude oil from western Canada through its system, and it’s a long way from happening, according to Bruce Hodgson, the Seaway’s director of market development.
“Obviously, there needs to be an ongoing commitment on the part of a producer, and so that’s going to be required for any project of this nature,” he said. 
So far, no producer has come forward seeking to ship crude through Thunder Bay, he said. 

Asked about the possible environmental risks of shipping oil on Lake Superior, both Hodgson and Heney said shipping by tanker is relatively safe; Hodgson noted that any tankers carrying the product would have to be double-hulled, and crews are heavily vetted. 
Time to rethink pipelines?
There hasn’t been a spill in the Seaway system for more than 20 years he said. 
Nonetheless, Mabee said, the potential for an oil spill on the Great Lakes could be a huge issue. 
“The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes have a lot of people living in close proximity, a lot of people who rely on it for drinking water,” he said. “There’s a delicate ecosystem there. I think a lot of people would push back against this proposal simply from that perspective.”
In fact, one of the reasons Mabee appreciates Marks’ proposal, he said, is because it invites people to weigh the pros and cons of different methods of transporting oil. 
“If we’re not going to build pipelines, but we’re going to continue to use oil, it means that people are going to be looking at some of these alternative transport options,” he said.

“And if we don’t want oil on those alternative transport options, we need to give the pipelines another thought.

Time to consider all options, I dare say.

​Garfield Marks​

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Opinion

The cost of the Canada Winter Games?

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The following Opinion piece comes from local writer/editorialist Garfield Marks.

The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre is a beautiful building but a very costly one. In more than money.

Construction costs of $22 million is an expensive undertaking. Operating and maintenance and interest on debt compounds the expense. The city is paying $11 million over a 10 year period or $1.15 million per year. (2017-2026) The college and the province are covering the rest, right?

Employees at Red Deer College are paying, too, and some are paying dearly. With their jobs. Red Deer College has to maintain a balanced budget, and with the huge cost of building, operating and maintaining this facility, they had to make cuts.

Early retirement, lay offs, and hours cut are an unintended consequence of the Canada Games.  The Gary W. Harris Wellness Centre was only about 25% of the cost of the winter games and will cost some residents their paycheques, their livelihoods with no one available to top-up their incomes.  Every resident will be paying for this centre for another 7 years, how much are we paying for the other 75%? Will we ever know?

The CFR cost the city last year $151,000 and $50,000 so far this year. Last fall when council voted themselves huge pay increases, one councillor stated they were worth the increases because they brought these events to the city. 

Thank you for lightening our wallets and for some their jobs. Will we ever know the real costs of the Canada games, would we do it again if we knew the real costs? I don’t think so but I doubt we will ever know the real costs, will we?

​Garfield Marks​

Background Information:

Budget Requirements, Council Decision Points and Funding Sources: click reddeer.ca

“…Through a tri-party agreement with The City of Red Deer, the Canada Winter Games Host Society and Red Deer College, a contribution will be made to the College over a 10 year period totalling $11,501,000. This contribution represents about 50 per cent of the expected costs of the Olympic sized ice surface and squash courts to be housed within this facility. Payments of $1.15 million will be paid annually from 2017 to 2026 inclusive. The grants being given to RDC for this project are funded from debt and the Canada Winter Games grant...”

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